10.000 Children Vaccinated against Malaria in Africa, Says WHO

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10.000 Children Vaccinated against Malaria in Africa, Says WHO
Children receiving malaria vaccine in Cameroon

About 10 000 children in Burkina Faso and Cameroon have now received the RTS,S malaria vaccine since its introduction this year, as vaccine rollout in Africa expands in the region, the World Health Organisation (WHO)  Regional Office for Africa has disclosed.

With Cameroon being the first outside the malaria vaccine pilot programme to introduce the vaccine into its national routine immunisation programme on 22 January 2024, followed by Burkina Faso on 5 February, the global health agency said a wider malaria vaccine rollout is underway this year in several African countries.

The international health agency asserts that malaria burden is the highest on the African continent, which accounted for approximately 94 per cent of global malaria cases and 95 per cent of related deaths in 2022. There were 249 million malaria cases globally in 2022, leading to 608 000 deaths. Of these deaths, 77 per cent were children under 5 years of age, mostly in Africa.

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According to Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, “Malaria is one of the major health challenges our region faces. The wider rollout of the malaria vaccine marks a significant milestone in advancing the fight against this deadly disease.

“We’re committed to supporting countries to ensure that all eligible children are protected from the devastating impacts of this preventable illness”, she stated.

Moeti,  in a statement made available to pharmanewsonline, noted that the vaccine rollout in the two countries mark the start of a major initiative by the WHO Regional Office for Africa’s Accelerated Malaria Vaccines Introduction and Rollout in Africa (AMVIRA).

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She hinted that AMVIRA was developed as a response to the planned introduction of the two malaria vaccines (RTS,S and R21) into the routine immunisation schedules of 19 countries in the Africa region in 2024. Through AMVIRA, WHO in Africa will strengthen the provision of state-of-the-art support to countries in their efforts to effectively and efficiently introduce and rollout malaria vaccines. The initiative also enhances coordination with partners, UNICEF, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and other partners.

In support of countries to ensure smooth introduction, community understanding and acceptance, and strengthened logistics, Moeti said WHO has deployed 69 experts in immunisation, data science and communication, across all 10 regions in Cameroon, as well as in Burkina Faso.

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“As the malaria vaccine rollout extends to all eligible countries, WHO will continue to ensure that experts are deployed where needed, implement robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track progress, identify challenges and facilitate timely interventions where required. The effective strategies that were witnessed in Cameroon and Burkina Faso are being documented and will be shared with other countries as they prepare for and launch the vaccines”, she assured.

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